You’ll see our bylines in the Sidney Daily News and we both have long histories with this publication. We both graduated from high school in 1972, Jim Painter from Trotwood-Madison and me from Sidney.
Soon after getting his diploma, Jim pursued more schooling in the form of pro wrestling instruction at Lou Klein’s Gym near Detroit. He entered that world, worked the Detroit territory including much of Ohio, then traveled extensively while wrestling some great names like Andre The Giant, “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, and a young Hulk Hogan. Most of the time Painter entered the ring as Big Jim Lancaster. He eventually married a gal from Wapakoneta, moved to Jackson Center, held steady jobs, and continued to wrestle on select evenings and weekends.
I first met him on Saturday, Jan. 12, 1980, as I broadcast and he wrote about the Jackson Center at New Knoxville boys basketball game. We visited during the reserve contest. I’d seen him wrestle both in high school and professionally. He knew I was a fan who had also done ring announcing.
Shortly thereafter he called to see if I’d like to accompany him to a bout in Springfield and I did so enthusiastically. Jim had just become a father and he couldn’t wait to show pictorial evidence to his fellow combatants in the dressing room. The legendary Bobo Brazil took a quick look and then snapped, “Come back and show me the picture when you get 14 more like I’ve got.” Brazil was apparently prolific both in and out of the ring.
Shortly after that initial road trip, Big Jim began promoting matches all around west central Ohio and booking the talent who would perform under the banner of Midwest Championship Wrestling. When he needed a ring announcer, he called me and I loved every minute of it. The promoter/booker also scripted the matches and Jim excelled in this area. Even with characters unfamiliar to the audience, he’d put together a fine show with simple but solid story lines.
I got to work with many of the pro wrestlers I’d followed in high school including Brazil, Luis Martinez, Mighty Igor, Irish Mickey Doyle, and Flying Fred Curry. These guys were TV regulars and often appeared in Dayton and Lima arenas as I did with my friends in the stands. Additionally, future WWE star Al Snow was trained by Big Jim, joined our group, and went on to make it big.
There was even a period when we videotaped for Lima cable TV as I called the blow-by-blow action accompanied by Dr. Jerry Graham, Jr. At the end of each night, we taped promos to be used before the next show that included appropriate threats from wrestler to wrestler.
I worked in Jim’s promotions in St. Marys, Sidney, Lima, Celina, Jackson Center, Houston, Port Jefferson, Anna, and Russells Point. The memories remain plentiful and it still seems like the most notable and unusual stuff happened in Lima including the night the ring floor fell apart during the second to last match, resulting in the main event being held on the gym floor.
Back in 1992, Big Jim’s retirement match highlighted a card at the old and since demolished Jackson Center gym as the Lancaster Brothers faced Johnny Paradise and White Lightning. The late Rick Lancaster wasn’t really Jim’s brother but they broke in together under Lou Klein back in 1972 and became enduring friends including best man duties in each other’s weddings.
Jim Painter and Rick O’Toole came in together and wanted to go out together. At the 17:49 mark, as officially tracked by timer Kurt Iiams, Big Jim delivered a “big splash” to White Lightning and got the three count to secure victory. I announced the winners and shook hands with them as they exited the ring for the final time. I thanked both for a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
In the ensuing years Painter has continued to promote on a limited basis and I’ve worked with him a few more times including a special night in Celina where I was handcuffed to the manager of the Kansas Outlaws in an effort to maintain order during a tag team title bout. In the end I was the one who interfered and the Outlaws lost their belts. Like I said, Jim knew how to script a match.
Big Jim will be inducted into the Ohio Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame on March 14 at a Circleville show. Congratulations champ !!!
Next week: OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass and his January visit to Botkins.
Sports Extra appears each Friday. Dave regrets that he won’t be heading to Arizona for spring training but has a variety of topics ready for February and March.